DESTINATIONS - TRAVEL DESTINATIONS
We’ve separated the Kimberley into two destinations – east and west – because it’s such a large area and you’ll need more than the customary four weeks to get there from the east, tour the region and then get back home.
For southerners — and that’s everyone except for the few thousand locals who inhabit the Kimberley region — just getting to the Kimberley can be a trial.
The easy way is up the blacktop to Broome or Kununurra, but many 4WD enthusiasts go via the Tanami Road. This route not only traverses the vast Tanami Desert, but passes close by Wolfe Creek Crater and leads to historic Halls Creek.
A less arduous entry with only some dirt roads is via the Duncan/Buchanan link from Dunmarra. Yet another way in is via the Buchanan to Top Springs and then to Timber Creek, along the Bullita Track through Gregory National Park.
All these dirt roads have varying surfaces, depending on the weather — particularly the extent and severity of The Wet — and how long it’s been since the grader went through.
When we drove the Duncan/Buchanan in 2017 it was in good nick and the little-travelled stretch from Top Springs to Timber Creek was excellent.
The Tanami Road is pretty corrugated these days, thanks to increased 4WD traffic, along with tour buses and stock and mining road trains.
You should allow at least two days for the Alice Springs to Halls Creek trip.
In between Purnululu and El Questro is the friendly town of Kununurra. It’s a perfect stopover to have vehicles serviced, bush-repaired tyres professionally checked and food supplies topped up. Cryovac’d meat and fish is readily available.
We always visit Kununurra 4WD Spares, an ARB dealer, for any mechanical help and have found the team there first class.
The Gibb River Road corrugations are infamous and road maintenance is pretty ordinary, but if you’re lucky enough to time your drive just behind a grading gang, you can whizz along at 100km/h. More typically is a corrugated cruise at 40-60km/h, with speed down to 20km/h in some sections.
The major river crossings have causeways and the big jump-ups like Gregory’s and Rollie’s are climbs that have been made user friendly by bitumen sealing.
From El Questro, in the East Kimberley, it’s a relatively flat run to a turnoff north to Kalumburu.
Fishos are drawn to the teeming waters north of Kalumburu, but you need to be keen and impervious to the incessant bites of sandflies!
Non-fishos turn off to the west before Kalumburu and head for the scenic wonders of Mitchell Falls.
Both groups usually have an overnight camp at Miner’s Pool, on Drysdale River Station, before heading northwards.
The Kalumburu Road and the track into Mitchell Falls are well known for severe corrugations, but the jolts and suspension wear are worth it.
After a good Wet, the Falls still run in late July and most people opt for a combination of a helicopter flight to or from the campsite in one direction and trail walking the other.
Helispirit does an excellent job of providing different chopper flights to suit everyone’s needs and at reasonable prices.
If you’re interested in Aboriginal art, the Mitchell Falls area abounds with rock galleries. We visited seven sites on the walking track
between the camping area and the Falls.
From Miner’s Pool, the next stop to the west is Mt Elizabeth Station. This property used to be owned by the Laceys, but Pat and Peter Lacey have sold and moved on.
However, it’s shady camping as usual at Mt Elizabeth and there is a self-drive tour to the local swimming hole.
Even better is buying a permit to drive the magnificent Munja Tracka that leads to Walcott Inlet, via Bachsten Camp.
After the Big Wet of 2016/7 the track was overgrown with three-metre-high grass from Bachsten Camp to the Inlet, making it a very demanding drive that only dedicated fishos pursued.
The legacy of the heavy rainfall was plenty of flowing water in all the creeks and billabongs
along the Munja Track.
This area is dotted with Aboriginal art sites and many are quite close to the Track. Some have been garishly retouched, but many are ancient.
Back on the Gibb River Road there’s good tucker and camping, and fuel, at the Mt Barnett Roadhouse, but no mechanical supplies or repairs. However 30km to the west – between Galvan and Adcock Gorges – is Over the Range Tyre and Mechanical Repairs.
The next overnight stop is Silent Grove, which is the nearest camping ground to Bell Gorge. This gorge is a justifiably popular destination, offering easily reached swimming holes for some and more remote ones for the hiking fraternity. Bell Gorge is more open than most of the Kimberley rifts, with wide
expanses of tilted red rock layers.
Bell Gorge is very busy during the winter months, but if you’re prepared to hike upstream and downstream from the main swimming holes you can find some relative solitude.
After Bell, it’s a short run across to Windjana Gorge, which is different again, being much wider than the previous gorges, and cut through limestone rather than sandstone.
Windjana Gorge and Tunnel Creek are features eroded into the remnants of a Devonian Age barrier reef.
There’s a walk under shade trees through Windjana and the physically fit can extend that walk up the Gorge for several kilometres.
Freshwater crocodiles can usually be seen lazing on the sandbanks along the Gorge.
If trudging sandy Windjana gets the body temperature up, a stroll through the underground waters of Tunnel Creek will do a thorough job of dropping it down.
You’re pretty close to civilisation now, with a run out towards Fitzroy Crossing taking you onto blacktop again. Geike Gorge is best done by relaxing on a boat cruise, after which it’s time for the last lap into Broome and the compulsory swim at Cable Beach.